Three questions with Jason Brown before U.S. Championships

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Jason Brown, a sensation at the 2014 U.S. Championships who vaulted himself onto the Sochi Olympic team, had a much different experience at the 2018 nationals. He placed sixth and missed the PyeongChang Olympic team.

In the time since, Brown moved from his longtime (and only) coach Kori Ade to Brian Orser in Toronto, Canada, where he now trains alongside world champions Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and Javier Fernandez of Spain.

Brown opened this season with a fourth place finish at Autumn Classic. On the Grand Prix series, he was sixth at Skate Canada but rebounded for a silver at Grand Prix France (he actually won the short program ahead of Nathan Chen). Then, he won Golden Spin in December.

At his media teleconference ahead of nationals, he noted that his focus is on the big, four-year picture and that his progress has been slow and steady.

Here’s what we learned:

1. The changes he expected in his skating really started clicking after his second Grand Prix assignment.

“The biggest thing when I came to Toronto, they sat me down and talked to me about this 18-month process. Just to feel comfortable, it will take 18 months. I was very open about that and willing for the process of – that understanding that change takes time. I was definitely up for it, up for the challenge and up for whatever the progress looked like. At the beginning it was extremely difficult. I think I did find myself a little frustrated with how slow the progress was coming on or how long it really took me to get comfortable with what I was learning.”

“That being said, I always had that perspective. They were always there to guide me and understood. They’ve done it with skaters in the past and it does take time. I was able to keep a level head through the whole thing and remain confident and really believing in the process. I think that’s what I’m still going through.”

“We work on quality every single day. All my elements and all my skating skills and all the programs. It’s constantly adapting. I’m making these tiny, tiny steps along the way. The thing that we’re most focused on right now is building a very strong base heading into the next four years. That’s really all that I can ask for and all that I’m focused on. That’s where my mentality is wrapped around.”

“I really do think that I hit this turning point in France and things started clicking. I really started to understand their technique. I think it’s just continued to get better from there.”

2. He had a small injury while skating at Golden Spin in early December, but still won the event.

“I sprained my ankle in Croatia. It was a little upsetting but it was what it was. It was small and it was nothing to make a big deal out of. We adjusted my program a little bit and I taped it up. I really didn’t bring any light to it because there’s really no light to be brought to it because it isn’t affecting me and I’m continuing to train the best that I can.”

3. Brown sees momentum building between himself and his new coaching staff, while also building on results from competition to competition.

“I’ve learned and I’ve gotten closer with my coaching team. And understanding the way they’re at in competition, the way that we do the six-minute warmups, our communication has gotten stronger and better. We’ve gotten to know each other a lot better in those situations. That’s a big momentum builder for me. There’s a bit of calmness, like, ‘Okay I’ve done this before’ with them. We have a routine. Early in the season, I was like, ‘I don’t really know what’s gonna happen! How’s it gonna go?’”

“That’s a huge momentum builder because there’s a lot more confidence that I have going in, knowing what to expect. There’s not as many surprises or unknown. That’s really helpful going into big events, being sure the way it’s gonna play out as far as our team as coach and athlete, and the expectations both ways.”

MORE: 3 questions with Bradie Tennell before the U.S. Championships

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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